Friday, April 1, 2016

Small Readers: What am I? Where am I? by Ted Lewin

This is part of Holiday House's I Like to Read series, which, as I'm sure you know, I am generally not a fan of. However, some of the titles are decent and, more importantly, the kids really like them. They've been specifically requested by an early literacy/beginning reader class that meets at the library and my colleague who works with them. So, I've been read as many as I can borrow to find some that will meet both my aesthetic standards and the needs of my patrons.

I had high hopes of this book, as it's a guessing game and my patrons absolutely love those - Edward Gibbs' I Spy titles are some of their favorites. However, there were several issues with this book, primarily with the art, that made it a disappointment to me.

The book is set up as a series of questions. The first page asks "What am I?" and shows a small thumbnail of an animal against a white background. The next spread shows a full picture of the animal, identifies it, and asks "Where am I?" with the next page showing the animal in its habitat. The animals pictured are a lion, reindeer, camel, sea otter, and tiger. The last pages shows a boy standing in front of a picture of the earth and says "What am I? I am a boy. I am on the beautiful earth."

I am not personally a fan of Lewin's watercolors - I find them washed out and static. However, they can be lovely in certain settings when they fit the text well. However, I felt this was a bad choice for this text. Only the lion and possibly the tiger are identifiable. The reindeer is represented with some gray horns which could be pretty much any type of horned animal. The camel is a mess of fur - absolutely no kid I ever met is going to think of camel. The sea otter is a blur of white and gray and only when you turn the page do you realize it's meant to be a section of its whiskers. For a title that is supposed to be assisting kids in learning to read, the illustrations should be simple and to the point, not distract attention from the text or confuse the reader.

Verdict: Not recommended. Try Edward Gibbs or Laura Hulbert instead for guessing books.

ISBN: 9780823428564; Published 2013 by Holiday House; Borrowed from another library in my consortium

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